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Fairness, incentives, and contractual choices

  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

This paper examines how the presence of a non-negligible fraction of reciprocally fair actors changes the provision of incentives through contracts. We provide experimental evidence that principals have a strong preference for less complete contracts although the standard self-interest model predicts that they should prefer the more complete contract. Our theoretical analysis shows that fairness concerns can explain this preference for less completeness. Fair principals keep their promises which provides strong pecuniary incentives through an incomplete contract. Selfish principals free-ride and exploit the agents. Counter-intuitively, selfish agents are induced to work by an incomplete contract while fair agents shirk.

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File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014-2921(99)00046-X
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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 44 (2000)
Issue (Month): 4-6 (May)
Pages: 1057-1068

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:44:y:2000:i:4-6:p:1057-1068
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/eer

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  1. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  2. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Simon G├Ąchter, 1997. "Reciprocity as a contract enforcement device: experimental evidence," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5911, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  3. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  4. Jacob K. Goeree & Charles A. Holt, . "Asymmetric Inequality Aversion and Noisy Behavior in Alternating-Offer Bargaining Games," Virginia Economics Online Papers 329, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  5. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  7. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  8. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1995. " Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(2), pages 295-307, June.
  9. Georg Kirchsteiger & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5899, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  10. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-54, May.
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